Musical Instruments of the World

"Music is the language of the spirit." - Kahlil Gibran

We often speak about the importance of language at Root & Seed, and music is a special language of its own. Crossing cultural and social barriers, people have used it to communicate with one another since ancient times.

From soft strings to the bold beat of drums, there's so much diversity in music to appreciate. In this roundup, we've chosen to highlight just a few traditional instruments that can be found celebrated in cultures around the world.


1. KOTO

a person plays the koto

The koto dates back to the Nara Period (8th century) and over centuries saw development from its original Chinese instrument and founded its own Japanese tradition. The koto is played by plucking the strings with the thumb the first 2 fingers of the right hand which are fitted with ivory plectrums called tsume.


2. BAGPIPES

a person plays the bagpipes

The arrival of the bagpipes in Scotland is somewhat of a mystery. Some historians believe they originated from Ancient Egypt and brought by invading Roman Legions while others maintain the instrument was brought by colonizing Scots tribes from Ireland. These bags can have up to 5 tubes/pipes attached to them. The blowpipe which fills the bag with air, the chanter to play the melody and drones which give the instrument its distinct humming sound.


3. DIDGERIDOO

Didgeridoo

Made from a hollow tree branch, traditionally of eucalyptus wood or ironwood they can measure anywhere from 1 to 3 meters in length. This Australian instrument is played by continuously vibrating lips to produce a continuous drone while using a special breathing technique circular breathing.


4. SITAR

a man sits playing the sitar

Can be traced back to the Mughal period in India. Believed to be developed from Persian lutes which were commonly played in the Mughul durbars. The strings are metal & usually contain 5 melody strings, 1 or 2 drone strings used to accentuate the rhythm & as many as 13 sympathetic strings beneath the frets in the neck that are tuned to the notes of the raga.


5. BERIMBAU

berimbau

A Brazillian musical bow made of wood that is used to accompany the martial art known as capoeira. They are strung with a single metal wire called an arame, a dried, hollowed, open-backed gourd resonator near its lower end held in place by a loop of string. To make the sound one presses a hard object such as a rock or coin against the string as it is struck with a baqueta.



6. MBIRA OR KALIMBA

A mbira or kalimba lays in the grass

The thumb piano or mbira had its name derived from the Shona language of Zimbabwe and is a unique African percussion instrument. Mbira consists of a row of metal strips attached to an open-ended wooden gourd or hollow resonator. The keys vary in length, with the longer ones placed in the centre, and each length determines the key’s pitch.


7. PIPA

Pipa

Its origins date back to the Han Dynasty when a similar type of stringer instrument was brought to China from Persia via the Silk Road. The pipa has 4 strings on a pear shaped body & a fretted neck. It's played by plucking & strumming much like a guitar, but is held upright with the base on the lap & the neck at the player's shoulder.


8. RONDADOR

A performer plays the rondador - https://www.flickr.com/photos/culturacdmx/47981373616/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79604905
Source: Maritza Ríos / Secretaría de Cultura de la Ciudad de México

A musical instrument of the prehispanic cultures of Ecuador. A wind instrument, it is played by blowing over the edge of the reeds which are arranged together with thread stitching. The Rondador was typically used by the Indigenous people & later was adopted & played by musicians of the Andean music genre.


9. STEELPAN

Steelpan

Created in the Caribbean Island of Trinidad in the 1930s, but its history can be traced to the enslaved Africans who were brought to the islands during the 1700s. Metal objects including car parts, paint pots, etc. were originally used as percussion instruments, but over time they began to be tuned.


 

What sounds or instruments do you associate with your own culture or family?